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Old 03-09-2010, 06:32 PM
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Tyburn Tyburn is offline
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Smile Wolfman Review Spoilers*********

People who know me, and who have kept up with my writings about movies will probably know that one of my least favourite of all male actors is Benicio Del Toro who happens to play the lead in this gothic drama. People will also know that ive done extensive research including at a high academic level into the gothic genre of literature and film. I imagine your expecting fireworks.

Well I got none for you.

I imagine many fools not versed in the difference between a Horror and a Gothic Horror will be somewhat dissapointed at the film, considering its level of violence is very low indeed for an advertised Horror that deals with the subject and Ikon of Lycanthropy. But I enjoyed it, and applaud its ability to remain firmly fixed within the Gothic scene. I shall explain how it does that.

We'll begin with the setting. The Gothic Movement began in Europe at the dawn of the age of Cinema and is so why a lot of the early films are, or were at the time, classified as Horrors. The Movement was borne out of a desire to inject back into society a level of mystery that the Enlightenment had removed from Religion to creat the scientific notion of Modernity. It was also a time of great upheval, a Long reigning, Elderly, and much loved Queen Victoria had recently passed away, and Two Great World Wars along with a financial depression, and the obliteration of a whole young generation of men in Europe led to changes in the order and caste, or class society of Britian and Europe.

Thus most of the Gothic is set in that period, between roughly 1850-1940. This film with its use of chariots, and of men on horseback and the rable of a township going into the woods at night to hunt beasts on a full moon with nothing but flaming torches and a knife is far from what people expect of a Horror, but totally in keeping with the Genre

As is the setting of the movie which revolves around a huge Mansion called Talbot Hall which has fallen into disrepair, but in which an ancient family of noble blood still live, despite the cracks in the pillars and the groaning of old trees against the shattered window in a wall encrusted with ivy and kreepers.

The Second point about a Gothic Horror is that it usually surrounds issues of the Heart and Romance, and they are usually between the damned, and the ordinary man. This film demonstrates this by the Ageing Mr Talbot who on becoming a Lycan one evening accidently killed the Wife he loved, and who having mourned her eversince did all he could to keep one of His Two sons at home in the mansion when he brought back his own love to marry, who reminded the Father of the Wife he accidently slaughtered. It is reflected also in how that Wife was to fall in love with Mr Talbots other son, and be the one to confront him and indeed kill him when he two fell under the curse of Lycanthropy.

The Modern Horror has moved away from thinking only about the effects these strange relationships have on the Ordinary...and now focuses more on how that effects the one who is cursed, in the case of the Lycan, when he has lucid moments between the full moons and is haunted by all the evil he commits on that one night of the month. Mr Talbot had an ingenious plan, that he be locked in a room on the eve of the full moon by a loyal servant of the household so he may not be a plague on society.

Ironically, it is of course his sons hunting of this plague, and a night when Mr Talbot is out on the prowl, where the Father inflicts onto the son his own curse, and then far worse, uses his Son as a scape goat in order that the raging villiagers be appeased, not by the Lycan that has stalked them for years...but by his son, the new Lycan, made thus by his Father.

Let us also think about the son, who is carted away to a mental institute until he breaks out. He knows he has committed Evil, and he knows that he must prevent his Father from continuing the cycle. He is plagued by the same curse of not knowing what to do about who he is. Now in the Early twentieth Century, these Ikons were also used to describe sections of the community or populations. The Vampire is ever knowing, his evil is daily, but he can be reasoned with nightly, he knows what he does and cant inflict his curse without deliberate thought (at least strictly in the Gothic sence of the Ikon) but the Wolf is different. He only attacks once every 28 days, and on the night he is a beast who is not aware of what he is doing, he cant be reasoned with, and he, in essence whilst aware of it afterwards, has no knowledge of what he's doing. Can he be blamed for the evil he commits?

The raising of questions such as these, which are ultimately existentialism in nature is what the Gothic is all about, and to his credit Benicio pulls it off masterfully. There is the inevitable showdown on the following full moon between father and son, and there is the inevitable death of the son himself, by the only person who can possibly reach him in his wolf like state...His lover, his dead brothers wife.

There is the side plott of the Detective who is the unbeliever in this tale, and who ends up being the next to be inflicted with the curse, there is also extra mystery in a gypse camp who can provide all the knowledge the lover needs about Lycanthropy. Done with taste, both of these needed intrusions are managed very well indeed.

I wont watch the film again, and I'm not sure I would reccomend it, but I would say it stands as a good interpretation of a truely GOTHIC horror.
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